Tuesday, October 2, 2012

C'mon media--do your job! Ask questions!

Chicago media is all abuzz over the fact that the State of Illinois has issued yet another airport layout plan to the Federal Aviation Administration. How is this a news story?

Airport sentiment near Peotone!
What is wrong with the media? Instead of asking real questions, newspapers have merely stated the obvious--printed the press release. After covering this project for 25 years, doesn't the public deserve better than merely printing what some government PR guy throws out there? Isn't it time to ask some real questions?

IDOT submits airport layout plans to the federal government as frequently as some people change their socks. 

In its zeal to put this news out there, the media failed to note that IDOT's new plan is merely a resolution for its own blunder in 2007 when IDOT submitted dueling airport layout plans to the federal agency. 

One was IDOT's own plan, created out of a 1994 decision by Gov. Jim Edgar for state sponsorship of a new airport at the Peotone site, two years after it was rejected by regional consensus. The map submitted was the result of numerous revisions of the reduced, readjusted, and overall massaged airport layout plan that had been rejected two years prior because there was no regional consensus on the project.

Perhaps that is the question the media should be asking--how does the state plan to achieve a regional consensus for the Peotone Airport?

The other configuration the state submitted in 2007 was for the layout plan conceived by the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC), the self-appointed airport authority spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. with a little help from the state’s consultant EarthTech, formerly TAMS.

At that time, the FAA rejected both plans and told IDOT to come back with just one. So, apparently it took five years for the agency to whittle down the differences in the two nearly identical plans,  in order to submit one of them. 

Perhaps the real news is: why does it take so long for the State of Illinois to draw a map when they have had their crayons for decades. But the media didn't bother to ask that question either.

Some news outlets wrongly make the claim that the submission of another airport layout plan is somehow a sign that Gov. Pat Quinn is moving the airport forward. Like most of what has fueled the Peotone  Airport since its inception, this is a mighty big assumption. The fact is that the project has been on the drawing board since 1985. Every governor since Big Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, and now Quinn has given it lip service, so how is this newsworthy? Yet, the reality is that the Peotone Airport is nothing more than a stack of yellowing papers on a shelf.

One component of the state's layout plan is the general aviation component of the Peotone Airport. How does the state plans to reconcile the existence of Bult Field, a privately-owned FAA-sanctioned general aviation airport, into which lies inside the Peotone Airport fence?

Back in 2008, IDOT reportedly assumed that Bult Field would be acquired and incorporated into the proposed airport. It is expected that existing facilities at Bult Field would serve the General Aviation (GA) needs at SSA (South Suburban Airport). Major improvements have been made to Bult Field since it was developed in October 2004. The cost to acquire that airport would drastically increase the cost of developing the proposed airport. How does the state plan to acquire and pay for a private airport for its own purposes? Is Bult Field even for sale?

Maybe reporters should ask IDOT what it plans to do with an airfield that airlines are opposed to and say they will not use. How does the governor plan to entice the airlines to get on board with his newly-reported support for a Peotone Airport? 

Instead of addressing the myriad questions surrounding the state's arguably longest-running boondoggle, the media has opted to report, practically word-for-word, the state's press release. It was only later in the story that throwing $70 million toward land purchases was mentioned. 

Isn't that more important? Isn't it actual news that the governor of the cash-starved State of Illinois that has been bullying landowners near Peotone for decades wants to continue the process. To me, that is much more newsworthy than merely jumping through a procession of legal hoops to prepare a Master Plan for an airport that may never be built anyway.